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David Palmer


David Palmer is a Los Angeles-based artist who has shown his work at galleries and museums throughout the United States. Recent solo exhibitions include William Turner Gallery in Santa Monica, the Holter Museum of Art in Helena, MT, and the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, TX.

“I think of my paintings as glimpses through an imaginary microscope. They are inspired by nature, but not just by its appearance. I’m interested in the ways things are connected, both directly and through networks, and how simple elements can combine and evolve into complex organisms. I’m especially fascinated by the invisible connections that we don’t see directly, but that are a big part of how we experience the world.”

Palmer’s work covers a wide range of media, from oil and acrylic paintings to intricate artworks comprised of inlaid linoleum, which he hand-cuts using an exacto knife. Some of these are as large as 12 feet across. In addition to his work as a fine artist, Palmer has created digital effects for over a dozen Hollywood films, including Polar Express, Spiderman 3, and the first Harry Potter movie. He has a BA in art from the University of Florida, and an MFA in painting from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.


I don’t remember ever actually deciding to become an artist. It’s just something I’ve always done. Like all kids, I drew. When I was around ten I switched from crayons to oil paints, and there was no turning back.

Through the early part of my career I created realistic paintings, but not realistic in the same way that a photograph or a view out the window is real. I painted the kind of realism we experience in dreams. Influenced by Italian Renaissance art and the stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I composed images that suggested narrative but were more like poems than stories. They were populated by boys catching snakes, girls holding tornados in their hands, and people flying (or falling) matter-of-factly through the air. They were based on fragments of memory, fragments which, over the course of time, had become distorted and dreamlike, the distinction between real and imagined events having disappeared.

In the mid-nineties I taught myself some computer graphics programs, and before long was creating digital effects for movies. When working on the film Air Force One, my coworkers and I would go down to a small park at the corner of Lincoln and Sepulveda to watch the planes come in to land at LAX. They would appear as vague shapes at the horizon, then grow larger and larger until enormous 747s were roaring over our heads. I took hundreds of photographs there, and they became the basis for a series of paintings that were much less detailed than my earlier works, but captured the surreal sensation of watching the planes approaching through the smog.

Flight is a recurring theme in my work, but it presents itself in different ways. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved looking out airplane windows at the ground below. My sketchbooks were becoming filled with real and imaginary aerial views, and I realized I had to paint them. One day I was in a building supply store, thinking about how to approach these new paintings, and I happened to walk through the flooring section. I was immediately drawn to the colors and patterns of the linoleum, and bought a few pieces to bring back to the studio. After a couple of tests cutting and inlaying, I knew I was onto something. Inspired by satellite photography, AAA roadmaps and Australian Aboriginal paintings, Flatlands began as a series of topographical abstractions exploring different ways of depicting the surface of the earth. But as the series progressed, I started noticing that these distant views of the land could just as easily be seen as glimpses into the microscopic realm. One form could be seen as a lake or a microbe, another as a printed circuit or a housing development. And my imagery gradually became less about land and more about biology.

My most recent work, which is sometimes comprised of paint, sometimes of flooring materials, and at other times created on the computer, is a response to the increasingly layered and networked world in which I find myself. Everything and everyone is connected, often in ways we can’t see. In the flows of information, the DNA maps, the cloud architecture, and the accelerating speed of change, there are new patterns to be discovered. New sources of beauty.

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Describe your work in three words
keeps surprising me

Who or what are your greatest influences?
Italian Renaissance painting and rock ‘n’ roll.

How did you start working with Ink Dish?
I loved the photos of Alyson’s dishes that I saw on Design*Sponge. When I checked out the Ink Dish website and saw Paul’s designs, I knew that these were people I wanted to work with! I contacted Dave and Caroline, and before long we were collaborating on dish designs.

“The foliage that appears in Poem is from the central coast of California. It reminds me of the fields and woods I explored as a child in upstate New York. I see suggestions of wind and water currents, light waves from the sun, the nuclei of cells, flight paths of birds and insects, and sounds at frequencies too high (or too low) for me to hear.”

what is your greatest achievement?
Way too soon to tell.

Which living artist do you most admire?
Jasper Johns.

How do you get inspired?
Getting inspired is the easy part.

Where does your artistic talent come from?
It’s a mystery to me. I’m really obsessed with creating visual images, so what looks like talent might just be persistence.

Do you listen to music or watch TV while you work? If so what?
Lately, I just keep listening to the new Arcade Fire album over and over again.

Describe the first piece of art you can remember making.
I don’t remember ever not drawing, but things get a little hazy that far back.

Any thoughts on the future of dinnerware decoration?
Oh, that’s easy. The future is Ink Dish :-)

What’s next for David Palmer?
I have a solo show coming up in March 2011 at the William Turner Gallery in Santa Monica, so I’m really busy painting. I hope to see you all at the opening!

Coming Soon
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